It’s summertime, and the open road is calling. Perhaps this is the year you gather a few of your closest motorcyclist friends and venture out on a group ride together. Where will you go? What adventure awaits? Only you can answer those questions, but as you’re thinking about them, also keep safety in mind.
Your group should be about five to seven riders. If you have more than that, break the group into smaller sub-groups. The larger group as a whole and the smaller sub-groups should each have a lead rider and a sweep rider—that’s the person who rides at the end of the group. While you’re assigning those positions, also designate someone to carry a full first-aid kit and a tool kit – and of course, make sure everyone who has a cell phone brings it.
Before you set out together on your journey, hold a riders’ meeting—and make sure you show up on time with full gas tank. Go over the route, decide on hand signals, and discuss fuel and rest stops. Together, decide what to do if riders get separated or there’s a breakdown. This is also a good time to go over the group’s formation. The lead rider should ride in the left third of the lane; the next rider, following at a one-second distance, stays in the right third of the lane, and so on. This so-called staggered formation is easier for drivers to see.
The staggered formation is only for safe conditions and dry pavement, though. When you’re on a curvy road, in the dark or other low visibility, entering or leaving highways, or poor road conditions, stick to a single-file line with a two-second following distance. Side-by-side riding formations are tempting, but they reduce safety margins and can therefore be more dangerous.
If you’re on a highway and need to pass slower-moving traffic, signal your intentions clearly. The lead rider signals the lane change first; other riders signal and change lanes one at a time. If you’re on a two-lane highway, stick to the one-at-a-time passing rule for safety.
As you always would, wear full protective gear, including your DOT-approved helmet. And don’t push yourself beyond your own skill level. Safety is more important than keeping the group together.
So if you’re ready to ride with your friends this summer, have a great time. Just remember that advance planning and good communication can be the difference between a tragedy and an epic adventure. You want to remember your group ride for all the right reasons.